MLB Hall of Famer passes away at age 57


MLB Hall of Famer passes away at age 57

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- In a rough-and-tumble clubhouse filled with dark secrets and constant conflict, there was always one sunny stall. Those New York Mets could count on Gary Carter to deliver -- a smile, a spark and ultimately a championship. The effervescent Hall of Fame catcher whose single for the Mets in the 1986 World Series touched off one of the most improbable rallies in baseball, died Thursday. The Kid was 57. Carter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor last May, two weeks after finishing his second season as coach at Palm Beach Atlantic University. Mets spokesman Jay Horwitz said Carter died at a hospice in the West Palm Beach, Fla., area. "Nobody loved the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. Nobody enjoyed playing the game of baseball more than Gary Carter. He wore his heart on his sleeve every inning he played," Mets Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Seaver said. Carter's bubbly personality and eagerness to excel on a ballfield made him a joy to watch at the plate and behind it. Even his Hall of Fame bronze plaque at Cooperstown shows him with a toothy grin and bears his boyish nickname -- the "Kid" forever. "I am deeply saddened to tell you all that my precious dad went to be with Jesus today at 4:10 p.m.," Carter's daughter Kimmy Bloemers wrote on the family website. "This is the most difficult thing I have ever had to write in my entire life but I wanted you all to know." Carter was an 11-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner. His bottom-of-the-10th single in Game 6 of the 1986 Series helped the Mets mount a charge against the Boston Red Sox and eventually beat them. With curly, blond locks flaring out from beneath his helmet, and a rigid, upright batting stance, Carter was immediately recognizable. And anyone who watched Carter recognized his zest. After Carter's diagnosis, the Mets began playing a highlight reel of his accomplishments on the video board during games at Citi Field and posted this message: "Our thoughts are with you Gary. From your millions of fans and the New York Mets." "His nickname The Kid' captured how Gary approached life," the Mets said Thursday in a statement. "He did everything with enthusiasm and with gusto on and off the field. His smile was infectious. ... He was a Hall of Famer in everything he did." Carter played nearly two decades with the Mets, Montreal, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He led the Expos to their only playoff berth and was the first player enshrined in Cooperstown wearing an Expos cap. "Gary was one of the happiest guys in the world every day," Mets teammate Mookie Wilson once said. Carter was known as much for his engaging personality as his talents. He drew his nickname as an eager teen in his first major league camp and the label stuck for the rest of his career, and beyond. "An exuberant on-field general with a signature smile who was known for clutch hitting and rock-solid defense over 19 seasons," reads his Hall plaque. He was especially pumped during the biggest moment of his career. The 86 Mets were a team with big stars, giant egos and huge expectations. They had a reputation for fighting on the field -- and sometimes among themselves -- and partying hard late into the night. Drug problems derailed the careers of two gifted teammates, Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden. Despite all their talent, the Mets were down to their last chance in the World Series when Carter stepped up with two outs. No one was on base, and New York was trailing Boston 5-3 in the bottom of the 10th inning in Game 6. Carter said he had just one thought in mind: "I wasn't going to make the last out of the World Series." True to his word, he delivered a clean single to left field off Red Sox reliever Calvin Schiraldi. Kevin Mitchell followed with a single, and when Ray Knight also singled, Carter scampered home from second base. As Carter crossed the plate, he clapped his hands, pointed at Wilson on deck and clapped again. Moments later, Bill Buckner's error scored Knight for an amazing 6-5 win. Carter rushed from the dugout to join the celebration at home plate, catcher's gear already on. Overshadowed by the rally was the fact that Carter had tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Then in Game 7, Carter drove in the tying run in the sixth inning, and the Mets went on to win their most recent championship. "What he added to the team was character. His approach to the game was contagious. It spread to the rest of us. He helped each of us understand what it took to win," Strawberry said. Carter homered twice over the Green Monster at Fenway Park in Game 4 and totaled nine RBIs in that Series. Since then, only two players have gotten more in a World Series (Mike Napoli for Texas in 2011 and Sandy Alomar Jr. for Cleveland in 1997 each had 10). Overall, Carter hit .262 with 324 home runs and 1,225 RBIs with the Expos, Mets, San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers. He set the major league record for putouts by a catcher, a testament to his durability despite nine knee operations. "Driven by a remarkable enthusiasm for the game, Gary Carter became one of the elite catchers of all-time," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement. "Like all baseball fans, I will always remember his leadership for the 86 Mets and his pivotal role in one of the greatest World Series ever played." Carter twice was the MVP of the All-Star game. He won the award in 1981 by homering twice in baseball's first game after a players' strike that lasted two months. He remains the lone player to have a two-homer performance in an All-Star game and a World Series game. Carter also set the NL record for games caught. "I relied on Gary for everything when I was on the mound, including location, what pitch to throw and when. Even when I didn't have my best stuff, he found a way to get me through the game. He was just a warrior on the field," Gooden said. Carter, however, spent his first full season in the majors primarily as Montreal's right fielder. His first All-Star appearance came that year, in 1975, as a defensive replacement in left field for Pete Rose. Later, Carter was recognized for his contributions off the field when he was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award. Carter hit his first major league homer in September 1974 off future Hall of Famer Steve Carlton as a 20-year-old rookie -- Carter homered 11 times against the ace lefty, his top victim. Carter spent his first 11 years with the Expos and was part of a solid core that put them into the 1981 playoffs. They beat the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies in a new first round created after the strike split the season into two halves, but lost to the Dodgers in the NL championship series. "Learning of Gary's passing feels as if I just lost a family member," former Expos pitcher Steve Rogers said. "Gary and I grew up together in the game, and during our time with the Expos we were as close as brothers, if not closer. Gary was a champion. He was a gamer' in every sense of the word -- on the field and in life. He made everyone else around him better, and he made me a better pitcher." A perennial fan favorite, Carter returned to Montreal in 1992 for one final season. His last swing was a memorable one -- he hit an RBI double in the seventh inning at Olympic Stadium, left for a pinch-runner to a huge ovation from the home crowd and walked away after that 1-0 win over the Cubs. Carter was elected to the Hall in 2003 on his sixth try. He had joked that he wanted his Cooperstown cap to be a half-and-halfer, split between the Expos and Mets. The Hall makes the ultimate call on the logo. Carter pleased Canadian fans by delivering part of his induction speech in French. Born and raised in California, he took a Berlitz course to help him learn the language after the Expos drafted him. "It's nice to know that even though my body feels like an old man now, I will always be a kid at heart," Carter said on his election. The Expos traded him to the Mets after the 1984 season for Hubie Brooks, Mike Fitzgerald, Herm Winningham and Floyd Youmans. Carter turned out to be one of the last missing pieces on a New York team that already had the likes of Strawberry, Gooden and Keith Hernandez. He made an immediate impression -- it just took a little extra time to get it right in his Mets debut in 1985. In the season opener at Shea Stadium, Carter took strike three, had a passed ball that gave St. Louis a run and watched Cardinals pitcher Joaquin Andujar steal a base against him. But in the bottom of the 10th inning, Carter hit a home run that won the game and drew a standing ovation plus chants of "Gary! Gary! Gary!" "What a way to start," Carter said with a grin afterward. "Hit by a pitch, strike out looking, a stolen base, a passed ball and then the home run." "There's not enough words to describe what it feels like," he said. "I'll certainly remember this the rest of my life." It wasn't the only time he bounced back from a rugged start. Slumping badly in the 1986 NL championship series, Carter hit a winning single in the bottom of the 12th to beat Houston in Game 5, putting the Mets within one win of the World Series. "Nobody loved life in a bigger way than Gary," said former Mets manager Davey Johnson, who now has the same job with the Washington Nationals. "Gary's brave battle has ended, but his from-the-gut laughter will be heard and his vitality and spirit will be felt forever. I loved him very much, and I know he is finally at peace." A two-sport athlete as a boy, Carter won the 7-year-old national division of the NFL's first Punt, Pass & Kick skills competition in 1961. He was a pitcher and shortstop in Little League and switched to catching in high school after a scout suggested it was the fastest path to the big leagues, turning down a chance to play football at UCLA. Carter stayed in baseball after his playing days ended. He became a broadcaster for the Florida Marlins, coached and managed for the Mets in the minors, managed two independent minor league teams and coached in college. Carter made it to opening day for Palm Beach Atlantic University on Feb. 2, shaking hands with each player on the team. He watched about three innings and received a standing ovation from the crowd. The Mets had invited him to spring training, which opens Wednesday. The only hint of negative publicity Carter drew came a few years ago when he appeared to be campaigning for the Mets' managing job though it was already filled. Carter, however, always had a winning touch. At the ballpark or away, he greeted fans with a hearty handshake -- many marveling at how his big right hand had swallowed up theirs. Current Mets pitcher Jonathon Niese played under Carter in 2005 and 2006. "The one thing Gary stressed to us was team. He said individual goals were meaningless," Niese said. "He said the name on the front of the uniform was more important than the name on the back. That's what I'll take from my two years with him."

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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